Plant respiration is an important physiological process in the global carbon cycle serving as a major carbon flux from the biosphere to the atmosphere. Respiration is sensitive to temperature providing a link between environmental variability, climate change and the global carbon cycle. We measured leaf respiration in Populus deltoides after manipulating the air temperature surrounding part of a single leaf, and compared this to the temperature response of the same leaves after manipulating the temperature of the stand. The short-term temperature response of respiration (Q(10) - change in the respiration rate with a 10 degreesC increase in leaf temperature) was 1.7 when the leaf temperature was manipulated, but 2.1 when the stand-level temperature was changed. As a result, total night-time carbon release during the five-day experiment was 21% lower when using the Q(10) estimates from the tradition leaf manipulation compared to the stand-level manipulation. We conclude that the temperature response of leaf respiration is related to whole plant carbon and energy demands, and that appropriate experimental procedures are required in examining respiratory CO2 release under variable temperature conditions.
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